The BMW Z4 M40i-Driven
Since the late 1980s, BMW has always had Z Series roadster in their model line-up. From the first generation of Z, the Z1 – to the legendary limited edition Z8. All had a unique design for both the interior and exterior. The most popular of all, however, is the Z4.
Now in its third generation, with a whole new look, the all-new BMW Z4 launches with 2 variants in South Africa, the sDrive20i and the super-hot Z4 M40i. The former is a 2l, 4 cylinder engine with 141kW & 320N.m coupled with an 8-speed gearbox. The latter has a 3l in-line 6 engine producing a proper 250kW & 500N.m, and a claimed 0 to 100 time of 4.6 seconds. The previous generation BMW Z4 didn’t really have what it took to tackle its biggest competitor, the Porsche Boxter.
Design wise, BMW Z Series car has always been filled with firsts for BMW – The Z1, for example, had doors that didn’t open upwards or outwards, but rather dropped down into the door sills. The new BMW Z4 brings 3 firsts for BMW – The BMW Corona Rings daytime running lights don’t side by side in this new iteration, the kidney grilles also sit differently and on the M40I feature Y-shape designs in the grille. The Z4 is shorter than its predecessor and ditches the hardtop roof for a soft top (this is done for weight saving and can be opened and closed while in motion at speed up to 50km/h) but it keeps the BMW roadster ethos – long bonnet, low seating position and short overhangs. The side of the car is dominated a huge air breather (huge relative to the car’s size viewed from the side), and 2 character lines that flow from the air breather, it looks very good. The rear is the most beautiful, in my point – slim taillights and an overall rounded and clean design.
The same clean design of the rear is carried over to the interior, but not in a way that many BMW Z Series fans will like. The previous generation Z4 had an interior that was somewhat unique to it – the new one spots an interior similar to that of the all-new BMW 3 Series and X5, which is not a bad thing, but might be hated by Z4 fans. That interior, however, means that the Z4 feels like very nicely put together and feels like good quality – coupled with ambient lighting BMW offers and the optional Harman Kardon sound system, and both set a beautiful ambience whenever you jump into the car, the interior is an overall nice place to be. Having the sort of similar as the 3 Series and X5 also means that the Z4 has the new BMW iDrive 7.0 operating system with the Intelligent Personal Assistant which will answer to your “Hello BMW” command, or a name of your choice and will then execute whatever command you give it (within boundaries, obviously. It is important to also mention that the BMW Z4 is the only one in its segment with this technology.
The latest iDrive from BMW is a stunner to use, very intuitive and easy to get around. It is made up of pages (up to 10) that can be filled with 2 to 4 widgets for easy access. In the Z4, it can be controlled through the touch screen, the iDrive controller or the Intelligent Personal Assistant. The range of technology options that the Z4 can be had with is astonishing – it is the first roadster to come with a heads up display according to BMW, which will display your current speed, navigation data and the driving assistant information onto the windscreen, the idea behind it being to minimise driver eye movement. One can also get their Z4 with the Active Cruise Control, which makes driving in traffic or on a long stretch of road that much more pleasant as the car will control the speed and distance from the car in front of you.
Once you get the wheel of the all-new BMW Z4, it’s very easy to get nestled in and ready for a drive & very few cars have managed to put a smile on my face like this car has. It quick, very quick – BMW claims it does 0 to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds but honestly, the car feels way quicker than that. Being powered by a 6 cylinder powerhouse means there should be exhaust sound galore, and there is – beautiful BMW inline 6 sound, it crackles pops on lift off and downshift and pops/”vvrrpaas” when you gear up under hard acceleration. You get the feeling driver enjoyment was at heart when the BMW (and Toyota) engineers set out to make this car. What appeals to me the most though is what happens when you switch off all the safety systems and play around with the throttle – it becomes such a playful little car, able to put a smile on my face at every chance I could play around with it. I love it!
The roadster segment does not have a lot of participants, the main ones coming from Mercedes-Benz with the SLC, Audi with the TT and the dominator in the segment, the Porsche Boxter. The Mercedes-Benz is a bit long in the tooth and is nearing the end of its life cycle. The Audi recently went through a facelift and the top of the range TTRS is a FAST car – managing to do 0 to 100 in a little under 4 seconds, it is a very fast car but lacks the driver enjoyment that one gets with the Porsche. The Porsche is arguably the most fun and engaging in this segment, the 718 now sports a 2 litre, 4 cylinder boxer engine making 220kW in the normal 718 Boxter and 257kW in the 718 Boxter S. The biggest question then becomes, will the new BMW Z4 topple the Porsche? We will have to drive both and give a verdict.